Rabain addresses future of middle schools
“Initial meetings” have been held on a government campaign promise to phase out Bermuda's middle schools.
Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education, said that the meetings had been held with “technical officers to discuss the most effective approach for developing a policy that will steer a consultation process that is inclusive”.
Mr Rabain added that planning meetings would continue until a “comprehensive framework” had been developed to achieve “system reform”.
He was speaking as Parliament debated the Education Budget on Friday.
Mr Rabain said that $17.3 million was targeted for the island's five middle schools for the next budget year.
He said the increased budget for Clearwater Middle School reflected underfunding from last year's budget in electricity spending and educational supplies.
Cole Simons, shadow education minister, questioned what evidence the Government had that middle schools were failing in Bermuda.
He asked: “What analytics are you basing your decisions on in regards to questioning the capabilities of our middle schools?”
Mr Simons, who served as education minister in the former One Bermuda Alliance government, insisted middle schools had a role to play.
He explained: “It's been proven that developmentally, by psychologists and paediatricians, that is the way to go because children are not mature enough to be in high school and are over mature to remain in primary school.
“So this is a transition that will prepare them for secondary school and prepare them to be more mature and take on more responsibilities — a transition year mentally, physically and academically.
“So it's a role that needs to be played and it has done its role successfully.”
Mr Simons added that middle schools had “proven to be effective” with effective teachers.
But he said one of the challenges he faced while heading the ministry was finding teachers trained for middle school level and questioned what the Government was doing to attract them.
Mr Simons also suggested that more scholarships could be provided for middle schoolteachers.
Rolfe Commissiong, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, said that middle schools had not been operating as middle schools.
He added: “They can be characterised more as glorified junior high schools. We think that's problematic.”
Mr Commissiong said his party's fix for the problem was to “move away from a system which we think has not been serving our Bermudians all that well”.
The PLP promised to phase out middle schools and introduce signature schools at the secondary level in its General Election Platform.
It said that schools would focus on the learning styles and interests of students in areas including technical and the trades, sports, arts and special needs education.